What Does Citizens United Mean for the Workplace?

Few recent Supreme Court decisions have provoked such heated debate as Citizens United v. FEC, which undermined federal restrictions on corporate and union contributions to political campaigns.  Despite all of the discussion of Citizens United, little attention has been paid to the decision’s implications for the workplace.   In a new paper on SSRN, however, Paul Secunda argues that Citizens United may have the effect of lifting some longstanding restrictions on the ability of employers to communicate political messages to their employees.  Paul argues for a statutory response that would prohibit the termination of employees for refusing to attend political meetings at the workplace.

Paul’s paper, entitled “Addressing Political Captive Audience Workplace Meetings in the Post-Citizens United Environment,” appeared in the Yale Law Journal Online here.  The abstract appears after the jump. 

Citizens United has wrought widespread changes in the election law landscape. Yet, a lesser-known impact of this watershed case might have a significant impact in the workplace: It may permit employers to hold political mandatory captive audience meetings with their employees. To eliminate this danger, and consistent with the First Amendment framework for election law issues post-Citizen United, this Article urges Congress to consider language similar to that enacted by the Oregon Worker Freedom Act Law, SB 519 (effective Jan. 1, 2010). SB 519 prohibits termination of employees for refusing to attend mandatory political, labor, or religious meetings held by their employers. Such a federal law would constitute permissible employment standards legislation and also would not run afoul of the First Amendment speech rights of employers under Citizens United. Employers would still able to communicate their views about political candidates and parties with their employees as the First Amendment now contemplates, but they will not be able to force them to listen to such speeches at the risk of losing their jobs or other benefits of employment.

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